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U of M gymnastics coach resigns in wake of harassment investigation

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The University of Minnesota women's gymnastics coach resigned Thursday following investigations into sexual harassment and retaliation in the program.

KSTP reports a statement from Director of Athletics Norwood Teague announced the immediate departure of Coach Meg Stephenson and said the department felt the need for a change for the good of the students and the program.

Teague said the university had conducted two investigations in the past year into student and employee complaints about the gymnastics program. Without specifying what they were about, he wrote that appropriate action had been taken and the investigations were closed, KSTP says.

WCCO reports the complaints involved sexual harassment allegations against the coach's husband, Jim Stephenson, who had been a volunteer assistant coach until last fall. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights received a complaint in March and found the U of M had failed to end the harassment and remedy its effects, the station says.

According to the Minnesota Daily, that led to a second investigation, this one focused on retaliation by Meg Stephenson. The Daily says the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action found the coach believed some in the program had conspired against her and expressed blame, anger, and mistrust toward them.

One former gymnast tells the Daily​ team members had complained to the athletics department about Jim Stephenson's behavior in multiple meetings before the 2013-14 season, but their concerns were not addressed.

“It got very mentally challenging to go into a gymnastics environment day in and day out that was hostile…,” the gymnast said.

The Daily also spoke to an attorney for a former gymnast, who says allegations that the U of M failed to take corrective action were filed with the Education Department. U of M General Counsel William Donahue tells the campus paper the Office of Civil Rights is reviewing the university's handling of the situation.

The women's gymnastics program was successful under Meg Stephenson's leadership. KSTP notes Stephenson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for 2014 after the Gophers won their second straight conference championship. They finished in the top 10 at the national championships three times under Stephenson and reached the NCAA regionals every year since 1997.

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